The 45NRTH Fasterkatt takes a mild-mannered approach to winter cycling footwear with a weather-resistant, high-cut upper but minimal insulation. As long as you're not heading out in truly frigid temperatures, this is one of the better foul-weather cycling shoes we've tested.
- Highs: Excellent fit for a winter shoe, sleek exterior, grippy outsole, reasonably lightweight
- Lows: Laces require periodic re-tightening, zipper requires regular care, very aggressive arch support
As the Fasterkatt is intended for somewhat milder conditions (-3°C/25°F to 7°C/45°F, according to 45NRTH), the last is closer to what you'd expect from a standard cycling shoe and the quality of fit benefits accordingly. Hiding beneath the waterproof, zippered exterior shell is a cam-locked speed lacing system similar to what you'd find on many snowboarding or cross-country ski boots. Once snugged up, the laces distribute pressure evenly across your foot and lock your heel in place.
The hidden speed lacing system distributes pressure evenly across your foot
It's not on par with a good summer shoe, but overall the feeling is better than a full-blown winter shoe that's heavily packed with insulation. Weight is pretty good for a protective shoe with our pair of size 44 testers coming in at 1,175g, including insoles.
Out on the trail (or road), that translated for us into better performance in terms of pedaling efficiency and a generally more 'connected' feeling to the bike. Thanks to the relatively standard-thickness plate, we didn't have to adjust our saddle height, either. Come the inevitable winter hike-a-bike sections, the generously treaded outsole provided ample grip and cleared snow pretty well, too.
The heavily treaded outsole provide plenty of grip in snowy and icy conditions
More important for this segment, we found the Fasterkatts to be plenty warm. With medium-weight wool socks, we were quite comfortable right down to 45NRTH's 3°C/25°F recommended lower limit. Although in concept these are little more than standard shoes with built-in water- and windproof covers, it helps tremendously that they're fully sealed all the way around.
Aiding things further are the included insoles, which feature felted wool tops, closed-cell foam construction, and even a layer of aluminum to help reflect heat.
Those insoles are largely responsible for that rather conservative 7°C/45°F recommended upper limit, too. We swapped them out with more typical footbeds for a few warm – but wet – days and found the breathability good enough up to about 13°C/55°F.
The included insoles feature felted wool covers that add a surprising amount of warmth
Those wet rides did reveal a weakness in the design, however. While the snug fitting, high-cut ankle and waterproof zipper do an admirable job of keeping road spray and stream crossings out of the shoe, it doesn't take much grime to clog that zipper up. If neglected, the zipper becomes frustratingly hard to operate – and prone to jamming – so be sure to keep up with the lube.
The tight-fitting waterproof zippers are prone to clogging with grime so make sure to keep them well lubricated
Much as we liked the snug fit, we also wished it lasted a little longer as we occasionally had to stop to retighten the speed lacing system. A more secure system would be much appreciated.
Finally, potential buyers should definitely first try the Fasterkatts on before pulling the trigger as the arch support is quite aggressive. Riders with normal-to-high arches aren't likely to have any issues but flat-footed cyclists might want to look elsewhere.